To what extent does the nature of language illuminate the difference between knowledge of ourselves and knowledge of others?

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, January 1997

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More than any other thing, the use of language sets humankind

apart from the remainder of the animal kingdom. There is some

debate as to where the actual boundary between language and

communication should be drawn, however there seems to be no

debate as to the nature of Language, which is to communicate, using

abstract symbols, the workings of one mind to one or more others

with a relatively high degree of accuracy. It could perhaps be said

that we are all capable of expressing or representing our thoughts

in a manner that is only meaningful to ourselves. Wittgenstein says

that "..a wheel that can be turned though nothing else moves with

it is not part of the mechanism."1 The idea of a uniquely personal

language is not relevant here and so will not be discussed further.

Language is a system of symbols which represent thoughts,

perceptions and a multitude of other mental events.

Although the

meaning of a given word or expression is by no means fixed, there is

a sufficiently high degree of consensus in most cases to ensure that

our thoughts are to a great extent communicable. This essay will

concentrate on two aspects of language. Firstly that it gives our own

thoughts and those of others a certain degree of portability and

secondly that because it has a firm (though not rigid) set of rules

governing the relationships between symbols it allows what would

otherwise be internal concepts that could not be generalised, to be

made explicit, examined in detail and compared.

If we did not have language we would be able to surmise very little

about other humans around us. Non-verbal communication has

evolved to instantaneously communicate ones' emotional state, and

generally succeeds in this, however although it can reveal what a

person may be...